More than a third of young Saudis are unemployed, as the kingdom faces logistical and educational challenges in helping citizens find work, according to a new report.
The study by Naif University of Security Sciences in Riyadh revealed that young people in small cities and villages in particular are facing widespread joblessness.
This meant the unemployment rate among young Saudis was as high as 35.1 per cent, reaching 46.6 per cent for women, Arabic publication Al-Watan quoted the study as saying.
Interviews with 260 employees at the ministries of interior and labour showed the kingdom faced particular challenges in convincing young people to come to work in major cities and in making sure their qualifications and degrees were relevant to the job market.
Around 34.6 per cent of unemployment was blamed on poor distribution of jobs in small cities and villages and 35.6 per cent was blamed on Saudi graduates’ inability to cope with job market needs.
Researcher Mohammed Al-Aufi also told the publication that salaries and job security would need to improve in the private sector to encourage citizens, many of whom believe menial roles are beneath them.
“Many Saudis are not interested to work in the private sector because of low salaries. The culture of shame also played a role. Most Saudis refuse to take up menial jobs as they fear it would affect their image in society,” he said.
“Moreover, most young men and women living in villages and small cities are not ready to move to major cities to take up available jobs.”
Al-Aufi warned that unemployment could provide damaging to families and society and encouraged the expansion of a labour ministry Saudisation programme that has closed off some sectors to foreign nationals.
Earlier this week, the kingdom announced that this programme would be extended to car rental offices on March 18.
On Tuesday, members of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council criticised the labour ministry for not taking measures to contain the “frightening” rate of unemployment among Saudi women, according to Saudi Gazette.
Member Fahd Juma also accused the kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics of painting a more positive picture of the country’s job market after releasing a Q3 study stating the kingdom’s unemployment rate was 5.8 per cent.
The percentage was including the country’s foreign population, who make up 78 per cent of the workforce, according to the official.
Juma said there were in fact 1.23 million Saudi job seekers, of which 84.5 per cent were women.